Newman Ancestors from Orkney, Scotland

Newman Ancestry from Orkney, Scotland

(Underlined names are my direct line ancestors.)

William Slater and Margaret Catherine Smith were both born in the Parish of Orphir on the island called Mainland in Orkney, a group of about 70 islands in the sea north of Scotland. They were married there in 1752 and their six children were born there as well. Two of their children, Cecilia Slater and George Slater, each had children who joined the LDS Church and came to America to be with the Saints.

Cecilia Slater married James Yorston at the parish of Orphir and they had four children—James, Hugh, Isabella, and Cecilia. Their children were all born at Graemsay, the smallest of the Orkney Islands.

George Slater married Margaret Linklater and they had nine children, all born at Orphir. Their children were Margaret, John, Joseph, Catherine, Cecilia, William, Janet, Christina,  and James.

One of Cecilia Slater and James Yorston’s sons, Hugh Yorston, married his cousin Margaret Slater in 1826 (daughter of Cecilia Slater’s brother George). Hugh Yorston and his brother-in-law Hugh Johnston, (his sister Cecilia’s husband) worked together in the fishing and whaling industry. They would, at times, be absent from home for up to six months on herring fishing trips which extended as far north as Greenland. In about 1829, during a storm on one of these fishing trips near the Davis Straits of Greenland, Hugh Yorston was washed overboard and lost at sea. After his death, his widow Margaret Slater Yorston made her home with Hugh and Cecilia Johnston and their family.

In May 1851, Hugh and Cecilia Johnston heard the Gospel preached in their area and were converted and baptized. Their married daughter Margaret Johnston Finlayson was baptized in July 1851 and their son James was baptized in May 1853.

Margaret Slater Yorston, widow of Hugh Yorston, also joined the Church. With a strong desire to gather to Zion, she left Graemsay in December 1852 to travel to America. She was the first Latter-day Saint to leave directly from Graemsay for Utah. She went first to England, where she departed for America on 23 Jan 1853 from the port at Liverpool on the ship Golconda. There were 321 LDS immigrants on board and after a prosperous voyage of forty-four days, they arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi River. They were taken up the river to New Orleans, where they arrived on 26 March 1853. From there they boarded the steam packet Illinois, which took them up to St. Louis and then to Keokuk, Iowa, where the Saints prepared wagons and supplies to cross the plains to the great Salt Lake Valley.

During this time, the spirit of gathering was also strong in the Hugh and Cecilia Johnston home and they began to make preparations to travel to Zion to be with the Saints. Hugh Johnston sold their boat and they left their home in Graemsay on 23 Jan 1854 for England. They sailed out of Liverpool for America on the John M. Wood on 12 March 1854, and arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi River 28 April 1854. After traveling up the river to New Orleans, they traveled to St. Louis and on to the Kansas City area to prepare to cross the plains. During their trip across the plains, Cecilia’s dear husband, Hugh Johnston, became ill and died. He was buried near the Sweetwater River in Wyoming. In October 1854, Cecilia Yorston Johnston arrived in the Valley with her family, which included Margaret and her husband David Finlayson, James who was 17 years old, and William who was 15 years old.

While they were encamped at Pioneer Square, they were met by Margaret Slater Yorston and her husband, Sidney Algernon Knowlton, whom she had married as his second wife since arriving in the Valley. Margaret was Cecilia’s cousin and sister-in-law (daughter of her uncle George and widow of her brother Hugh). Sidney and Margaret took Cecilia and her family into their home. The next year, Cecilia Yorston Johnston married Sidney Algernon Knowlton as his third plural wife, for time only.

Shortly before Margaret Johnston Finlayson gave birth to their second child, her husband David decided to go to California to seek for gold. His family tried to talk him out of leaving, but he could not be dissuaded. While his wife and her mother and brothers were still living at the Knowlton home, he joined a group going to the California gold fields to seek their fortune. He did not return from California. Margaret gave birth to their daughter Jemima Cecilia Finlayson on 6 November 1855. In time Margaret and her daughter moved to a place of their own and she made a living by dress making and weaving straw bonnets.

Margaret’s brother James was now eighteen years old and working in the canyons getting out logs. He became ill one day and another young man working with him, Emanuel Wayman, offered to take him on his horse down to his home in the valley. At James’ home, Emanuel met his sister Margaret Johnston Finlayson, and his mother Cecilia Yorston Johnston Knowlton and the youngest son William. As Margaret and Emanuel visited, they learned they had both been in the same William Empey Company of Saints coming across the plains and arriving in the Valley in October 1854. Margaret remembered hearing about a young hunter who was in their same emigrating company having his hand badly shot on the journey.

Emanuel told her that turpentine was the only remedy used, but that his hand had healed completely. They talked of the events of their trip across the plains and they became more interested in each other. Soon their friendship turned to love. Margaret obtained a divorce from David Finlayson and, on 10 April 1856, she and Emanuel Wayman were married in Salt Lake City.

Orkney: In 1262 the Scots and the Norse fought a brief war over Orkney, with the Norse winning. In 1468 King Christian I of Denmark pledged 10,000 florins in payment of his daughter’s dowry for her marriage to Prince James of Scotland; Orkney was named as collateral. In 1469, following this marriage and subsequent default of the dowry, King James II annexed Orkney. In 1707 Scotland and England were declared one country. Since this time Orkney has been a part of Great Britain.

1) Histories of Emanuel Wayman and Margaret Johnston, compiled and written by Margaret Ann Newman Wells and Rae Wright Moss, 1 June 1966. Copy in possession of Adele Newman Knudson.
2) International Genealogical Index, owned and operated by the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some names and dates were verified on this site.
3) Orkneyjar, the heritage of the Orkney Islands, an online site at
4) Mormon Immigration Index
5) UK Census records, Scotland

Our Newman Ancestry from Orkney was compiled by Adele Newman Knudson, Jan 2008

Descendancy Chart of Orkney, Scotland Ancestors